6049 Seaview Ave. NW
Seattle WA 98107
Upscale Tastes with a Majestic View on the Side
By: Steve G
Located next to the water near Shilshole Bay, Ray's Boathouse has been a long-standing icon of fresh seafood. Since 1973, Ray's has been a part of some distinguished company when it comes to seafood. Only places like Anthony's Homeport or Ivar's Salmon House in Seattle are in the same league when it comes to freshness, quality and history. Now that I think about, icon is a rather apt choice of words on our part as you may realize from pulling into the parking lot. The 50-foot glowing neon sign screaming Ray's is about as prominent as the bat signal in Gotham City.
Many of us at Chef Seattle have been to Ray's but only in the upstairs section of the restaurant which has been solely dedicated as a bar and has a more casual atmosphere. The opportunity to try out the main dining area was like an invitation for us sit at the big kids table. Needless to say, we couldn't wait to see what was in store for us there.
Ray's Boathouse had a warm and sophisticated feel to it, without being as overdone as many of the higher-end places we've visited. With lots of warm colors and ambient lighting, it's a little dark yet nicely set off by a few lit candles. Dark and intimate, it is great for groups of close friends or couples. In addition, some great views of Puget Sound are available on clear days (which unfortunately we did not get to enjoy as we visited at night).
As expected the menu offers a wide variety of seafood, purchased directly from local fishermen. Salmon, Sablefish, Crab Cakes, Alaskan Crab Legs, it's all there; plus some tenderloin steak and duck breast and confit for those preferring meat.
The Shilshole Sampler ($29.00) was a hodgepodge of local seafood that showcased dungeness crab, smoked scallops, manila claims, kumamoto oysters, and white gulf prawns. The scallops were very large and had both a sweet and smoky taste, while the kumamoto oysters and the manila clams tasted very fresh.
The Sablefish Sake Kasu ($26.00), known more commonly by its other name, black cod, was cooked with a thick coat of black and white sesame seeds, on top of a heaping bed of rice, choy sum, honey soy, and scallion oil. Usually black cod is a buttery, oily affair, but the sablefish was less rich with a lighter flavor. While it didn't meet the expectations set by black cod Grant has had in the past, like a well-played symphony, all the ingredients blend well together to create a great harmony of taste.
We were warned by the server ahead of time about the quality of the Alaskan King Salmon ($32.00). In the winter (the time of year we visited), the salmon isn't particularly fresh, so Rays supply of fish comes from a renowned fisherman who mastered the skill of quick-freezing the fish to maintain freshness. While some people might complain about the fish being frozen, the salmon in our dish still had a satin-like texture and finish. Unfortunately, the sauce that came with the fish did not compliment it very well. Similar to the sablefish, it had a honey and soy based sauce with sesame seeds, however Trish would have liked to have been able taste the salmon more on its own.
The Grilled Alaskan Halibut ($32.00) fared better than the salmon. Served with arugala, a rock shrimp croquette and chanterelles, it was very flaky and tender. Despite the scorch marks, the fish did not have as much of a charred or smoky flavor as I would have expected. The chanterelles mushrooms carried a really buttery flavor that permeated the fish nicely.
For dessert, we tried out Marcia's Chocolate Folly which seemed to be a contradiction in terms. In our case, this bittersweet fudge cake was anything but a folly. Described as a bittersweet fudge cake with chocolate and butterscotch sauces, it came out delicious with a dense, savory and rich chocolate flavor that is enjoyable without being overly decadent.
All in all, Ray's Boathouse seemed to deliver on their huge reputation of high quality seafood. They had great seafood with some of the best quality of service we've seen. The complementary valet is a nice touch, as well. The prices are on the high end but compared with similar places, it is in the competitive range. As this place is popular, be sure to make reservations!